If you’ve been anywhere near a hotel in the last 15 years you’ve probably been overwhelmed with them promoting their environmental policy. Walk anywhere near your en-suite bathroom and you’ll be greeted with the hotel environmental policy on laundering towels. Now does this make you feel like a responsible citizen or are the motives a little unclear?
Well, after years of spending many nights each year in hotels I have my doubts. And I’ll tell you why.
I’ve stayed in hotels in 6 continents around the world and I see a fairly consistent message. Whether it is a big chain hotel or a more low key, independent they all portray their virtues of trying to save the planet.
I’ve even seen hotels promote their participation in the global Earth Hour event. This is where all non-essential lighting is switched off for an hour as a gesture to help save the planet from damage caused by fossil fuels. (Earth Hour in 2016 will be held on Saturday 19th March between 8:30pm to 9:30pm in each time zone taking part. The event is organised by the WWF.)
I’ve been impressed by a hotel in India which tells me that the water for their showers are solar heated. A noble gesture. I do however wonder a little bit about the wasted water since you have to run the shower for a while before you get the warm water.
I’ve been in a hotel in Norway which proclaims its environmental consciousness by using solar power where possible and renewable materials. I have little reason to doubt their claims or intentions, as opposed to other more lightweight gestures.
Now I am like everyone, I want our planet to be sustainable and around for many generations to come as opposed to self indulgence now which sees ozone layer destruction and tidal surges from global warming. However I cannot claim to have the full virtues of eco-friendliness nor be interested in joining Greenpeace. My carbon footprint from all my work related travel is not one of envy.
However, I don’t come out with claims that I am personally doing my bit to save the planet and that you should look at me as an example. I don’t draw attention seeking your praise.
Yet, when I see hotels promoting their environmental policy I think they really could do better.
I will give my current experience (not so uncommon) as an example.
Like all the big chains their en-suite bathrooms have a sign about their policy on towel usage. They claim that if I so choose, it would be appreciated if I decided to re-use my towels. So I effectively use them more than once and for more than one day.
If I would like my towels laundered then leave them on the bathroom floor or in the bath tub. If I’d like to re-use them then hang them up on the bathroom door hanger.
This sounds good enough to me.
The standard claim is that if towels are not laundered as often by the hotels then we can save so many gallons of water and detergent each day/month/year around the world. It could really make a difference.
A very noble claim this is and why wouldn’t I want to buy into it?
Well sometimes I feel this is a little bit poppycock. A load of nonsense. This is maybe more geared by financial savings for the hotel then a genuine save the planet gesture.
Here are reasons why I think this way:-
Firstly, I’ve noticed on more than one occasion that even if I do hang the towel up on the door it is still replaced. Already this isn’t really buying into the policy.
Secondly, I am the only person staying in this hotel room for the entire week. The Receptionist can see this on the room booking and the maid is no doubt aware of this from her daily visits to my room. So if that is the case why are there ten, yes 10 towels in my bathroom? There are 3 bath towels, 3 hand towels and 3 flannel size face towels. In addition to this there is a floor/foot towel for when I step out of the shower.
Maybe 1 of each would suffice or just a foot towel and a bath towel. That would be fairly consistent with what I have at home.
There are other reasons for me to doubt most of the hotel environmental policy signs that I see.
For example the complimentary toiletries. I agree these are great freebies for any hotel guest to take home but are they really necessary? Why is it that if I only use a small fraction of the complimentary bottle of shower wash/shampoo that it is religiously replaced everyday? The whole bottle could last me a week.
What about all the wasted contents and the plastics generated to create the bottle?
Another unenviromentally friendly issue I see with a range of hotel rooms is the hairdryer. No problem with the hair dryer as such but why do some hotels insist on making sure it is plugged in and on standby every single day. I actually unplug the hairdryer each time I see this happen, yet there it is replugged the next time I return to the room. The whole situation is even more ironic since I am so follicly challenged that I can’t remember the last time that I used a hairdryer.
Then of course there is the TV set, always on standby. Why?
They also place the TV in such a way that it is near impossible to get to the plug socket and unplug it. I appreciate that TVs are very low power using devices but I very rarely use a hotel TV. It is wasted electricity. If I want the TV on why can’t I just plug it in. Having said all that I am a little guilty of using the sleep function but then again I never claimed to be an eco warrior.
Thankfully some TVs now have a full power off switch but it can take some finding.
Yet beyond all this is something which bugs me more than the rest of these. Whilst not exclusive to the US I find this issue very prominent in the US hotels that I stay in. That issue being that they have a throw away society approach to cutlery and crockery. By this I mean that they seem to persist in the use of plastic knives and forks and spoons and paper plates for breakfast. The idea of using ceramic plates seems beyond them. They are a true throw away society when they could use a dishwasher instead. (Admittedly I don’t know the true measure of throwing away paper plates etc v washing up and reusing items but this makes an interesting read http://www.livestrong.com/article/226810-environmental-effect-of-paper-plates/)
Will a hotel environmental policy save the world or just some money?
So when it comes down to it, in all honesty I am a cynic of hotels and their environmental policies. I think the idea of encouraging customers to reuse towels is a big cost saving for hotels in terms of laundry costs. Compared to the costs of resupplying complimentary toiletries and leaving a TV on standby the towels are where the money is.
If I ran a hotel with an environmental policy to claim I would restrict the amount of towels allocated to each room, I wouldn’t leave toiletry bottles freely for customers to use and I wouldn’t leave hair dryers on standby. All in all I’d probably be running a Premier Inn.